Religious Pluralism

Think You Can Conquer Sin On Your Own?

Have you ever gotten too close to something and intrigued by it that you just couldn’t leave it alone? Go back to the school bus in middle school with me. There was a hole in the upholstery of the seat in front of mine. It was awfully tempting to touch, pull, put stuff in, etc. Eventually, that hole became larger because of my curiosity! I probably wouldn’t have remembered this episode if I wasn’t called in to the Vice Principal’s office one day with the threat of having to pay to have the seat reupholstered!

My point–if you keep putting yourself around temptation, it’s easy to give yourself over to it.

Last week, I introduced the concept of religious pluralism and today I want to give the first of two dangers of religious pluralism:  it can put you dangerously close to sin.

 

Look at the historical context of Judges in the Bible. The Israelites were led out of slavery in Egypt by Moses, then Joshua took over leadership after Moses’ death. After Joshua’s death, there was no leader in Israel to help the people stay true to the Lord. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

Israel faced 3 major hindrances during the period of the judges: 1) not ridding the promised land of pagans; 2) idolatry; 3) intermarriage with pagans.

Pagan practices of the nations they failed to drive out heavily influenced Israel to idolatry. The phrase they failed to drive out/take possession appears 8 times in 13 verses from Judges 1:21-33. Repetition is important to note in the Bible because it alerts us and tells us something important. God’s response: He would not drive them out (Judges 2:3). Instead, those nations would be a thorn in their side and their gods would be traps to the Israelites.

Here is religious pluralism.

One Danger of Religious Pluralism: We Can Get Dangerously Close to Sin

Judges 1:28-35 mentions 4 times that the Israelites committed some of these groups to forced labor. It’s almost like the conversation went like this:

God:  Manasseh, Zebulun, Nephtali, Dan— remove the Canaanites.

Israelites:  It’s okay , we can handle them. In fact, we’ll commit them to forced labor like the Egyptians did to our forefathers.

The command is to cut them out of the land. But the Israelites say, no, we’ll

  • subdue them
  • limit them
  • tame them
  • master them

And look what happened.

 

Now think about your own life: 12So then, brothers and sisters, we are not obligated to the flesh to live according to the flesh, 13because if you live according to the flesh, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.   (Romans 8:12–13, CSB)

The command is to cut sin out of your life. Put it to death.

But we say, no it’s ok, I’ll

 

  • subdue it
  • limit it
  • tame it
  • master it

 

Well, how’s that going for you?

Can a man embrace fire and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27, CSB)

 

The Israelites thought they could just get along with these other nations. They would master them and not be affected. They thought: surely this is a better plan than God had. And those pagan cultures became a snare for the Israelites.

What are you getting too close to right now?  What do you need to guard yourself from right now?

  • Alcohol. There might be some who struggle with the temptation and lack of self-control leading to drunkenness and they need to keep it far from them. But one of these people might say I can have it in the fridge and it will be fine.
  • Gambling. There are some who might struggle with greed and just don’t even need the temptation to step foot in a casino when invited by friends to go.
  • Pornography/sexual immorality. Some might struggle with self-control and lusting, but they think they don’t need internet filtering or don’t need to limit their interaction with a certain person. They think they can subdue it.  And sooner or later, they’ll get burned.

One of the dangers of pluralism is that we can find ourselves entertained by every ideology and begin to soften on our convictions. We begin to believe that maybe everything is true, which leads to pursuing whatever we want.

What are you trying to master by your own power?

Food Poisoning, Buffets, and Religious Pluralism

What’s attractive about a buffet restaurant?  Everybody gets something they want.

Growing up, my family would actually drive an hour to a Ryan’s Steakhouse for special occasions with my grandparents because of steak on the buffet.

I remember many mornings having breakfast at the Ponderosa in town with Grandpa. We never had to twist his arm to go there. He could get his bacon and eggs while I got those cinnamon french toast sticks with strawberry sauce.

School field trips would often end up at a Golden Corral, and after our high school football team won the state championship, where did we go? The Western Sizzlin! And just about destroyed it…

Everybody gets what they want.

Could I argue that religion today is like a buffet restaurant? It’s about making everybody happy. Everybody gets what they want. But when you’re talking about faith and belief, there is much more at stake than the spreading of germs and food poisoning. Your very soul is at stake.

I recently started preaching through the book of Judges. I introduced the concept of religious pluralism because we see it among the Israelites in the period of the Judges as well as today.

Religious pluralism is the belief that every religion is true. Each provides a genuine encounter with the Ultimate. One may be better than the others, but all are adequate.”  (Norman L. Geisler, “Pluralism, Religious,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 598.)

Just like a buffet of food where you go down the line and think all of this might fill me up, but I’ll pick certain items because I like them better, pluralism would say any of these religions and ideas might give me some kind of satisfaction, but let me pick the ones I like best.

This is a perilous pursuit! Dictionary.com defines peril as “something that causes or may cause injury, loss, or destruction.”

If we don’t follow The Truth, our very soul is in danger of eternal damnation in the torment of hell.

Maybe CS Lewis says it better:  “An open mind, in questions that are not ultimate, is useful. But an open mind about ultimate foundations either of Theoretical or Practical reason is idiocy. If a man’s mind is open on these things, let his mouth at least be shut.” (C. S. Lewis quoted in Credenda Agenda, Volume 4/Number 5, p. 16)

 

In my next two posts, I’ll explore two specific consequences of religious pluralism. For now, I hope you’ll think about the truth to which you are subscribing in your life. Have you considered the truth of Christ, the ultimate Truth, that points out the reality in our life (our sin) and gives us the only way to find rescue from this depraved condition?

I hope you’ll understand this Truth and experience it yourself.

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